What do songwriters Sylvie Paquette and Steve Veilleux have in common? They both have put words in music. Except in their case, the words were those of Anne Hébert and Gérald Godin, just like Les douze hommes rapaillés and Chloé Ste-Marie have done for Gaston Miron. But the comparison ends here.

Last March, Kaïn’s singer took a break from his popular band to dive head first into the release of an homage to the politically active and outspoken poet, the late Gérald Godin, a magnificent opus titled T’en souviens-tu Godin?, a one of a kind outlet for Veilleux who created, in collaboration with his partner in crime Davy Gallant, sonic universes for a dozen selected poems.

As for Paquette, this week’s release of her Terres originelles is the result of four years’ work, a bold gambit of admiring sonic paintings inspired by the collections of poetry written by Anne Hébert between 1942 and 1997, an warm, serene and celestial album created alongside producers Yves Desrosiers and Philippe Brault.

In both cases, the motivation was a duty of remembrance. But beyond that, both artists have created major musical milestones in their respective careers.

sylvia“Singing and poetry have always gone hand in hand, says Paquette. Léo Ferré did it with Aragon. I’ve always done lyrics-based music and I’ve worked with people like Jean Fauque (Alain Bashung) and Daniel Bélanger, authors that are very close to their lyrics, but taking on Anne Hébert was a completely different adventure.”

This adventure took her to Kamouraska, the Québec region that was so beloved by the poetess: “I paid my respects on her grave, went snowshoeing on her land. It’s an intimate encounter with her poetry, free, kind of like prose, I had to let go completely, confides Paquette, I did not adapt her poetry in any kind of way, although I did create choruses, sometimes, but only by using a stanza or a few lines and repeating them. I approached it with utmost respect. We wanted something that showed a lot of restraint and where the voice was front and centre. Even in the final mixdown, there are no effects on the voice, but I stayed very true to the folk ethos I’ve been championing for years.”


steveveilleuxAs for Steve Veilleux, he admits it outright: “It was a creative process that is completely different from what I usually do. I stumbled upon Godin’s oeuvre and simply devoured everything I found: his poetry, his biography, his politics, all of it just captivated me. That’s why, ultimately, I decided to turn it into a musical essay. Of course I was totally outside of my comfort zone, but I was also totally inspired. I found myself a lot in this project, through musical exploration, by revisiting the way I write music because of such beautiful yet in your face images.”

“What I seek, above all, are melodies. Obviously, lyrics are a song’s soul, but the melodies have to be strong and accessible. Godin uses a very percussive language, it’s in your face, unpredictable, he was poetry’s black sheep. He uses joual, he doesn’t mince his words and doesn’t shy away from using swear words in his writing. He didn’t pussyfoot and was utterly proud of his culture.”

Michel Faubert is the one who offered Sylvie Paquette her first collection of poems by Anne Hébert, a book published in 1942 and entitled Les songes en équilibre (very loosely: balancing daydreams). Out of this book, the poem entitled Marine found its way into the final selection of 13 songs selected by Paquette as a magnificent vocal duet. “We’d never sung together, we were acquaintances. I was looking for someone who inhabits words and Michel is a raconteur. I suggested this duet over email and he replied seconds later saying: What a beautiful gift! Turns out he was just reading Kamouraska and he freaked out! I’m very pleased with the result, we sang facing each other, it was quite an intense studio experience.”

Veilleux too couldn’t be happier with the result: “Recording this album to me was like a rejuvenating experience, we did not set any limits, musically, and it reminded me of how simple and relaxing going into a recording studio can be. The songs a rock and all over the place at times, but other times, they are very sparse and vulnerable. The words dictated what the music should be. We practically did the whole album between just the two of us. In the end, what mattered was that not just Godin’s protest spirit came through, but also his touching side.”

The approach for Terres originelles was quite different: “The three of us were never together at the same time, explains Paquette, Yves and Philippe didn’t work as a duo. Most times, I would get things going with Yves, just guitar and voice, and later Philippe would come in and add colours and atmospheres. That’s how the whole album was done, never the three of us at the same time. In any case, Yves is a loner, he needs to be in his bubble. We need to be bothered, jostled a little when creating music. Take Rouler dans des ravins de fatigue, for example: I wrote the music and Philippe came in and put a light beat to it, and it worked with the rather heavy subject matter.”

“I enjoyed this kind of calm and serene exploration process so much, confides Veilleux, that I can’t even imagine working any other from now on. I would come out of the studio in ecstasy. Words should always dictate the way the music is played. They are just fragments of his body or work, but there were key ones that I absolutely wanted to be on the Album, such as Liberté surveillée and Tango de Montréal. His poetry put a spell on me, how dearly we miss someone like Gérald Godin!”
Sylvie Paquette

Steve Veilleux



Over the span of his 20-year career, Pavlo, the internationally renowned, award-winning recording artist, performer and songwriter, has released 10 albums of his own music, plus two collaborative projects, including 2015’s Guitarradas with Remigio Pereira of The Tenors, and 2009’s Trifecta with fellow guitar masters Rik Emmett and Oscar Lopez.

Born in Toronto to Greek parents, Pavlo has made a name for himself by offering a musical amalgam he simply calls “Mediterranean music” – a blend of Greek, flamenco, Latin, Middle-Eastern and even Balkan flavours, wrapped in contemporary pop. His music has taken him all around the world. Along the way he’s performed for royalty and worked and toured with artists such as José Feliciano, Jon Secada, Olivia Newton-John and The Tenors.

But when he was starting out, he was told his music wouldn’t get him anywhere. Record labels told him his music was too “ethnic.” He was told instrumental music wouldn’t draw an audience or sell enough CDs. But Pavlo stuck to his guns because there was something else he’d been told. It was the advice his father gave him many years ago. He told him, “Have the courage to do what you love, and the drive to do it well.” That advice has been the constant star he’s steered by, and now it’s guided him back to his ancestral home.

“All I did was play guitar all day and all night. My mother thought I was nuts.”

His latest album, Live in Kastoria, captures Pavlo’s performance in the town in northern Greece from which his parents emigrated to Canada. A companion DVD documents the journey back to his familial home, and presents Pavlo and his band performing under the stars at a small amphitheatre nestled in the hills overlooking the town and Lake Orestiada. There’s also a television concert special – his second – that has aired across America on PBS.

The 46-year-old guitarist and songwriter grew up in Toronto’s heavily Greek-populated Danforth neighbourhood (he’s since dropped his family name, Simtikidis, for obvious showbiz reasons). He first picked up a nylon-string guitar at the age of 10, and that was it. “Everything else went out the window; my whole life went out the window,” he recalls. “All I did was play guitar all day and all night. My mother thought I was nuts.”

The fledgling guitarist’s repertoire certainly included the Greek music that he was hearing around the house, but he soaked up other sounds as well; His father loved the contemporary music they were hearing on the radio.

“He loved Neil Young, he loved Gordon Lightfoot, he loved songwriters like Elton John and Billy Joel,” Pavlo says, “which is kind of odd for a Greek father. So I would grow up listening to that stuff at the same time. But he loved guitar specifically, so he’d play José Feliciano in the house, and he’d play Paco de Lucia.”

He also credits his hometown’s diversity and the variety of music genres on tap for shaping the hybrid nature of his music.

“I think it’s because I was born in Canada, more specifically born in Toronto, that I do what I do,” says Pavlo. “I would wake up one day and go see [flamenco guitarist] Sabicas from Spain; the next day I’d go see Sting or Yngwie Malmsteen or Paco de Lucia. In Toronto, you could see a different artist every single day in a completely different category, and that surely influenced me in the way that I play, the way that I light [my shows], the way that I perform, my songwriting – all that stuff.”

But after more than two decades performing over 150 shows a year around the world, there must be more than a father’s words to keep him inspired and to keep going out on that stage every night.

“At the heart of it, I love to play. I love to play guitar,” he says. But it’s more than that. His joy in playing music is inextricably tied to his songwriting. “I have co-written dozens of songs with people, but for the most part, the music that ends up on my albums, it’s usually songs I’ve written by myself. So when I go out into the world, every night I’m playing my music. I’m so personally connected to every note that I’ve ever written in my music that when I play it live, it means something to me.”

For the next 12 to 18 months, he’ll be playing his Mediterranean music to people around the globe in places like Japan, Korea, Germany, Greece, Mexico and, of course, North America. But there’s still one noteworthy country he hasn’t played.
“Ironically, Spain!” he says, laughing. “I’ve never played Spain, and I’d love to, because it’s a guitar-loving country, right? I’d love to show them what I do.”

And if the Spaniards are anything like the folks in Greece or Mexico or Singapore or North Dakota who fill venues when Pavlo plays, they’ll make him one of their own, too.







Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts.” And I say, never were truer words written.

Before I begin any projects, my mantra usually goes something like this: “Let’s face it Frew, you’re about to begin the grind and feel the pain and the anguish, put in the hundreds of hours required to make it the best it can possibly be, knowing full well… that nobody could care less or give a damn about it!”

Does that sound a little too gloomy for you? Not to me. On the contrary, I say that mantra is enduring. I say it’s honest, and best of all I say it’s inspiring, because it screams the truth and it begs of me to prove it wrong.

And so, up I get and onward I go to start yet another outrageously difficult and exhaustive project… all the way, loving it. Oh and just for the record, I’ve been doing that for close to 40 years!

“You have to live and breathe, eat and sleep and care uncompromisingly, no matter what the challenges are”

That’s right, get it into your heart and brain that other than your mom and dad, your sister and her new boyfriend, maybe the mailman, some friends and perhaps a few diehard fans from the past, no one really cares whether you or I ever write a book, record a new CD or ever get a hit single on the radio for the first time – or ever again.

Swamped by the need for instant gratification, and having an overwhelming abundance of entertainment outlets available to them, the mass audience we crave is NOT holding its collective breath awaiting our next masterpiece.

Will Jim Carrey make a new movie? Will the Stones tour yet again? Will Sting ever put The Police back together for a final hurrah? “Zzzzzzzzz!” says the planet. So, if no one cares, then why bother?

Well for one thing, the alternative of “doing nothing” is just not an option, at least not to me. Secondly, getting a “real job” as my mother always said, even AFTER my success, doesn’t fly with me either. I’ve done REAL jobs, many of them, and honest and forthright as that is, nothing beats making music and performing. Well, does it?

So what, then, is the answer if no one truly cares? It’s simple. There are two rules of thumb that I live by:

1) YOU HAVE TO CARE. You and only you can make it happen. Read Winston Churchill’s words again. You have to live and breathe, eat and sleep and care uncompromisingly, no matter what the challenges are, no matter what the naysayers around you say, or tell you differently.

2) YOU and only you, have to do something REMARKABLE in order to MAKE THEM CARE, or at the very least “somewhat” remarkable to at least make them sit up and take notice.

Just when you think it might be over for him on the funny side of things, Jim Carrey takes on “serious” roles; WE sit up and take notice and he wins two Golden Globes. Just when we say, “The Stones are too old for this,” they build a bigger stage, plan a bigger tour, play in Cuba, and Jagger covers it like a 25-year-old. WE sit up and take notice. He doesn’t give us The Police, we moan, but then Sting joins forces with Peter Gabriel and tours and WE go “How cool.” Do you get my point? Something out of the ordinary, something a little “remarkable.”

I wrote a song for Glass Tiger as good as any pop song I’ve ever written, yet radio programmers and Top 40 said, “No, it ain’t happening.” Instead, I come back with an album of classic ’80s covers called 80290Rewind and suddenly, it’s a little remarkable. “Hey, have you heard the guy from Glass Tiger singing Madonna? How about John Waite or Simple Minds or Tears for Fears?” Suddenly people go, “Hmmm that’s cool, let me take a look at that.”

I leave you with this: I wear a tattoo on my arm that says NO SURRENDER. Those words mean so very much to me.

On August 20, 2015, after working my ass off for two months of straight singing for that new album, I went to bed and suffered a stroke in my sleep. I was left with total paralysis on my right side afterwards, a broken heart and a crushed soul. As I write this now, I’ve just finished performing for the first time since that stroke, on live TV this morning, and crushed it. Hit it right out of the park, on what is probably THE most unforgiving format you can do. Also, as of this writing, in four days’ time, I perform the first of two sold-out shows in my hometown of Toronto!

I rest my case.